Sunday, May 19, 2013

We write to taste life twice. — Anais Nin

Let me tell you a little story. A couple Sundays ago we had a lesson at church that has lingered with me. It was about journaling. Keeping a record and writing it down. The instructor was well prepared and the room was packed with women. I wasn't teaching that Sunday, but I had a sneaking suspicion the lesson was veering into the territory of an hour long lecture. As I glanced around the room I saw women of varying ages and life experience. We had already sat through two hours of church that day and were rounding the last stretch. The lesson had the potential of a home run or a lackluster finish. As quote after quote was read I kept waiting for the inevitable pause. Hoping for a chance to hear from the other women in the room. Finally, as the teacher asked for quote number six, I raised my hand and told her that while I didn't have the quote she was after I did have something to share. And this is what I said.

When I was young, in my childhood (starting at eight), through adolescence and even during all of college, I journaled regularly. Volume after volume. Journals lined my bookshelves. I wrote about everything. School, friends, family, trips, interests, and life. Mundane things mostly, but I wrote them down. It was a habit. A part of me. As natural as making my bed or brushing my teeth each morning. I worked out problems on the pages of my journals and referenced back to them when faced with difficult circumstances. One time, I must have been 11 or 12, I was visiting my aunt in Southern California and we were at a swap meet, perusing plastic trinkets and antique finds. In my excitement of simply being there I told my aunt and her friend that I couldn't wait to get home to write all about the experience in my journal. They teased me of course, but with an undaunted zeal I quickly responded No, you don't understand, you've GOT to write it down. If you don't write it down it's like it never happened. I was certain my little testimony of record keeping could motivate just about anyone. Then, after college, I entered a really difficult period of my life and I stopped writing.

Just like that.


Something shifted inside me and I didn't feel like I could pour my emotions or heartache or bad decisions onto the pages of a book. Pages that had already carried me through most of my life. I felt like somehow I had let them down and that those blank pages, once etched with black ink would stare back at my face and judge me. That they would see my mistakes magnified and that writing would be too painful, rather than healing. Because I stopped writing, half of my 20s went undocumented. Major life events all but vanished. Which, at this point, you might be thinking, what's the big deal. So what? But that's just it, I don't have that record. It's like it never happened. Sure I can dimly recall portions of things past, but I don't really know what happened; not from my perspective at least. Please don't misunderstand, this isn't to say that my life is so extraordinary, or that I am so important that this is a grave loss to humanity. That's not what I mean. Rather, I believe that I inflicted this loss upon myself. I chose to stop writing. At the time, I didn't believe sharing the hard things would help. But after I opened up and shared this experience during that Sunday lesson, the rest of the women felt safe and started to share their stories too.

In 2009, I started to write again. I started to write here, on this little blog. It felt strange and awkward, like a bird just learning to fly. The format was different, but the intent was the same. Share my stories. Write them down and remember my life in the process. Now here I stand, broaching another season of transition, faced with another difficulty. Over the past week I have teeter tottered about how much to share and how much to withhold. In the end, I choose to be honest.

Last Monday I was terminated from my job. It was a job I loved and one that I was good at. I worked hard for seven months and stretched myself during the process. I liked the people I worked with and felt happy in my position. Then, just like that, it all vanished. Losing your job is much like being dumped. It's embarrassing and smells like failure. Suddenly you find yourself spending daylight hours in public with retired folks and stay-at-home parents. You wonder if everyone who isn't at work is independently wealthy. And then, as if you could forget, your internal monologue starts up again; pestering you for the 100th time What now?

Currently, I'm at the beginning of this. Still processing and trying to sort out future possibilities. For the record though, I have a suspicion that everything is going to be alright.


  1. I am an occassional journal writer. I almost have a whole shelf dedicated to my journals. It's a healthy way to release emotions as well as remember the highs and lows. I've found my journals a source of strength and comfort.

    As for your termination, I had that happen to me once. I devoted myself to a month of home improvement projects and then I got back on the horse and started a temp job outside my field. It happens to everyone at one time or another. It ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me. It propelled my career into a different direction and told me not to settle which I had done when I took the terminated job. It shakes you up. Finding a project that I could complete, made me feel better about myself. It reminded I wasn't a failure.

    Good luck! In this economy, it's not all personal.

  2. I've always been a writer, though not generally as eloquent or consistent as I'd like to be. But it's always therapeutic. And I've found that now, even more than learning from my own words and experiences, I discover my own emotions and thoughts in the words and experiences of others. Sometimes their experiences mirror my own and sometimes we have absolutely nothing in common but the shared 'human experience' but there is always something to learn and be gained from stepping into someone's shoes, however briefly. Thanks for being one of those great writers and sharers!

    And hugs for the new job status. You are amazing and I have no doubt you will fill your days with usefulness and enjoy the forced vacation (!) until you find something new.


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